International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001



Prevention and Planning

Latin America’s geological, topographical and hydrometeorological characteristics, combined with environmental mismanagement and the establishment of human settlements in high-risk zones, makes the region prone to both natural and man-made disasters. It is indispensable to consolidate a strategy for reducing vulnerability, improving institutional response capacity, and taking preventive measures.

The living conditions of people cannot be lastingly improved without greater safety from natural and man-made hazards. What is needed is a greater understanding of man’s interaction with the environment. In this sense, disaster prevention is an essential component of sustainable human development: it ensures that the surrounding ecosystem and the society that inhabits it and is a rational part of it can coexist harmoniously.

Knowledge of natural and man-made risks must be the cornerstone of sustainable decision-making that incorporates prevention and mitigation criteria into the planning process. Local communities must become proactive participants in the process by utilizing the knowledge they already have of their own environment, of the natural and artificial hazards that threaten them, and by increasing this knowledge with the assistance of experts and the experiences of others. High-risk areas must be identified, as well as their degree of vulnerability. Measures must be adopted for preventing and mitigating the impact of these hazards through both short-term and medium-term actions. The actions of both the state and society in risk reduction and disaster prevention must be improved through better planning in order to reduce loss of life, property, and environmental assets.

Prevention must be understood as a set of actions and tools aimed at reducing or mitigating existing risks. It is quite different from relief or reconstruction efforts after a disaster has struck. In order to prevent disasters, the community must be an active participant in vulnerability reduction planning. This in turn must be understood as a key development goal, if development is to be understood as an improvement not merely in terms of income but of quality of life.

In this sense, the state’s social and economic development policies must incorporate risk mitigation and disaster prevention. Only thus will lives be saved, economic assets and infrastructure be protected, and the environment be preserved.

For more information, please contact:
Juan Guillermo Delgado N.
Corporación Autónoma de Desarrollo,
Tel. (571) 7234319,
Fax (571) 7309425